Following in Bechet's Footsteps

Ken Dryden By

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Bob Wilber with Clark Terry
Blowin' the Blues Away
Classic Jazz

Nik Payton and Bob Wilber
Swinging the Changes

Soprano Summit
1975...and more!

Bob Wilber has been on the jazz scene for ages, once a student of Sidney Bechet. He has primarily focused on swing and classic jazz on his record dates, co-founding the World's Greatest Jazz Band and Soprano Summit, while later leading his Bechet Legacy band.

Blowin' the Blues Away is one of a series of recent reissues after the revival of the long defunct Classic Jazz label. Wilber recruited Clark Terry to go along with the saxophonist's old pianist pal Dick Wellstood, bassist George Duvivier and drummer Panama Francis. The nine blues performed are cast in a variety of settings, ranging from Wilber's slow, simple "After Midnight" to Terry's breezy "Please Blues Go On Away From Here" (which has the flavor of Duke Ellington), the latter featuring a brief bit of stride by Wellstood, with Terry playing both open and muted trumpet. The softly swinging "Basie Eyes" sounds like something that would have fit in perfectly in the bandleader's songbook. Terry steals the show with his comic vocal in Wilber's "Soulful Serenade" (based on "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me"). Wellstood contributed the gospel-infused "Baptist Blues" and the loping "Maryland Farmer," which blends elements of boogie-woogie and soul jazz. This 1960 session is an overlooked gem.

Wilber is featured with his protégé Nik Payton on Swinging the Changes. After he settled in England, Wilber met Payton, the teenaged son of his dentist, who had just started playing jazz. Wilber spent a year tutoring Payton, after which the young man moved to London and played in Chris Barber's orchestra. Recruiting a European rhythm section for this 2007 date, including bassist Dave Green, pianist Richard Busiackiewicz and drummer Steve Brown, Payton primarily plays tenor, with Wilber appearing on alto and soprano, along with clarinet. The influence of Ellington is heard, even though there are no numbers from his vast songbook. Wilber's mid-tempo title track swinger and Payton's quirky riff tune "Rabbit Jumped the Frog" salutes Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster respectively, as played by Wilber and Payton. While most of the familiar songs date from the '30s-40s, Jobim's "No More Blues" is an excellent showcase for Wilber's soprano, first in a reserved duet with Busiackiewicz, then in a light mid-tempo setting with the full quintet. Both the student and the master excel throughout these sessions.

Soprano Summit was formed not long after Kenny Davern and Bob Wilber shared the stage during the 1972 Colorado Jazz Party. Initially both players doubled on soprano sax and clarinet, though within a few years, Davern gave up soprano. The two-CD set, compiled by Dan Morgenstern from the archives of the New Jersey Jazz Society, features live performances by the group in 1975, along with individual dates featuring Davern and Wilber.

The first disc features the Summit in a piano-less setting with Marty Grosz (alternating between rhythm guitar and banjo), bassist George Duvivier and drummer Connie Kay, the latter proving to be an excellent addition. Davern and Wilber both play soprano in the rousing opener of Sidney Bechet's "Swing Parade". The mournful rendition of Ellington's "The Mooche" features potent interplay between Wilber and Davern (now on clarinet). The co-leaders are both on clarinet for a light-hearted take of Django Reinhardt's "Swing 39". Disc two adds pianist Dick Hyman for the first five tracks, focusing exclusively on works by Jelly Roll Morton. Aside from the improvised solos, both "Kansas City Stomp" and "Original Jelly Roll Blues" follow Morton's charts. Wilber's two-clarinet scoring of "Froggie Moore" proves more satisfying, as this take doesn't at all sound like a repertory performance.

Four selections from 1979 feature Davern on clarinet, with pianist Dick Wellstood and drummer Bobby Rosengarden providing his sole accompaniment. Highlights include the poignant take of "C.C. Rider" and a peppy "Shim-me-sha-wabble," with Wellstood showing off his stride chops. The remaining tracks showcase Wilber co-leading a quintet with cornetist Ruby Braff, guitarist Wayne Wright, drummer Fred Stoll and Duvivier again on bass. Each selection merits praise, though the interplay between the two leaders in the bluesy extended workout of "Fine and Mellow," along with their solos, leaves the most lasting impression.

Tracks and Personnel

Blowin' the Blues Away

Tracks: After Midnight; Please, Blues Go On Away From Here; Soulful Serenade; Basie Eyes; The Maryland Farmer; Baptist Blues; Where Will I Go; La Valse Bleue; Blue Rhumba.

Personnel: Bob Wilber: tenor sax, clarinet; Clark Terry: trumpet, vocals; Dick Wellstood: piano; George Duvivier: bass; Panama Francis: drums.

Swinging the Changes

Tracks: I Won´t Dance; Swinging the Changes; If Only You Knew; I Believe in Miracles; Jasmine; No More Bules; You Are Too Beautiful; California, Here I Come; Rabbit Jumped the Frog; Ode To Pug; Skybloo; Dialogue; JP´s Tee; Scuttlebrook Bounce; The Sage; Circulatin´ in C.

Personnel: Nik Payton: tenor sax, clarinet; Bob Wilber: alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Richard Busiakiewicz: piano; Dave Green: bass; Steve Brown: drums.

1975...and more!

Tracks: Swing Parade; The Mooche; Oh Sister, Ain´t That Hot; Steal Away; Linger Awhile; Panama; Song of Songs; Swing 39; Egyptian Fantasy; The Fish Vendor; Kansas City Stomp; Original Jelly Roll Blues; Froggie Moore; Shreveport Stomp; Sidewalk Blues; C.C. Rider; Fidgety Feet; Sweet Substitute; Shim-me-sha Wabble

Personnel: Kenny Davern: soprano sax, clarinet; Bob Wilber: soprano sax, clarinet; Marty Grosz: guitar; George Duvivier: bass; Connie Kay: drums; Dick Hyman: piano; Dick Wellstood: piano; Bobby Rosengarden: drums; Ruby Braff: cornet; Wayne Wright: guitar; Fred Stoll: drums.

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